The Netherlands (Nederland ) is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba), it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the largest outside Asia.
'Netherlands' literally means 'lower countries', referring to its low and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 m above sea level and nearly 17% being below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as polders, are the result of land reclamation beginning in the 16th century. With a population of 17.25 million living within a total area of roughly 41,500 km2—of which the land area is 33,700 km2—the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products after the United States, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, and intensive agriculture.
The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have representative government, and has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. Historically, a tradition of pillarisation, segregated communities and institutions between Catholics, Protestants and secular citizens, but Dutch society is today among the most cosmopolitan in the world. The country has a long history of social tolerance, having legalised abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870, allowed women's suffrage in 1917, and became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.
The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD, and WTO, as well as a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. It hosts several intergovernmental organizations and international courts, many of which are centered in The Hague, which is consequently dubbed 'the world's legal capital.' Its mixed-market advanced economy had the thirteenth-highest per capita income globally. One of the world's most prosperous countries, the Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indexes of press freedom, economic freedom, human development, and quality of life. Its strong performance is owed in large part to a generous welfare state that provides universal healthcare, public education and infrastructure, and a range of social benefits. It is also known for its polder model, the country's leading socioeconomic model based on consensus decision-making.